City Segway Tours
If you are dying to try out the Segway Human Transporter (think Gob from "Arrested Development"), but don't want to shell out the $4000, consider taking a City Segway Tour. Currently in only 4 cities, Chicago included, the tour offers a complete experience: a great orientation, informative historical and present-day information, heaps of unique and fascinating stories, fantastic photo ops, superb personal service from your guide, and an opportunity to ride a pretty cool machine. The 3-hour tour costs $65 per person and begins with a 30-min training session at Adler Planetarium. Tour highlights include Grant Park, Lakeshore Drive, Museum Campus, Michigan Avenue, and Chicago's famous skyline.
Taking three square blocks of open lakefront space, the ambitious Millennium Park beautifies a former railroad track, surface parking and unused parkland. When first announced, the park's features were relatively modest. As more money was poured into the project, it took on a grand scale including an outdoor music pavilion designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute is best known for its collection of American art and impressionism (unrivaled anywhere outside the Musée d'Orsay). Must-sees include Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks," Matisse's "Bathers by a River," Caillebotte's "Paris, A Rainy Day," Picasso's "Old Guitarist," Monet's "Grainstacks" series and Georges Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."
Chicago Architecture River Cruise
Marvel at Chicago's soaring towers while enjoying a 90-minute, narrated river cruise. This tour spotlights more than 50 architecturally significant sites where you will discover a new perspective on the city. Come aboard either of our well-appointed vessels,Chicago's First Lady or Chicago's Little Lady, where both open-air and climate-controlled indoor seating will make your journey comfortable. Snacks and beverages are available.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
The birthplace of the Prairie style of architecture, this remarkable complex served as Wright's private residence and studio from 1889 to 1909--the first 20 years of his career. Used by Wright as a living laboratory, many of his trademark designs seen in their infancy at the Home and Studio reached their fullest expression at the Robie House. Today, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is an accredited house museum restored to 1909, and contains an impressive collection of furniture and decorative arts objects designed by Wright.
Loop Tour Train
The Loop Tour Train is a unique opportunity to see Chicago and its famous architecture from a bird's eye view. The "Loop" is the nickname for the heart of downtown Chicago. The Loop 'L' is the term commonly used to describe the elevated tracks above Wabash, Van Buren, Wells and Lake Streets. The first Loop 'L' service began in November of 1897.
Chicagoans and visitors to Chicago's Loop are still served by the elevated trains. Today's Loop is home to Chicago's world-famous architecture, financial exchanges, magnificent museums, public sculptures, great restaurants and more.
Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry
Colleen Moore was always fascinated by dolls and doll houses. She owned several elaborate doll houses as a child, but later in life her father, Charles Morrison, suggested that she should pursue her passion for miniatures and doll houses by creating the "doll house" of her dreams. Her position as one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood gave her the resources to produce a "Fairy Castle" of fantastic proportions. By 1935 over 700 individuals had lent their expertise including surgical instrument lighting specialists, Beverly Hills jewelers and Chinese jade craftsmen. The price tag for this 8'7" x 8'2" x 7'7" foot palace containing over 2000 miniatures was nearly $500,000.
More than 200 outdoor sculptures line the docks from May to October, and the Crystal Gardens are a botanical oasis under glass. Stroll the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows for a look at more than 150 windows representing Chicago culture and history from 1870 to the present. Or just walk down the pier for an eyeful of jugglers, clowns, musicians and singers.
North Michigan Avenue
Known as the Magnificent Mile, this upscale shopping district is Chicago's version of Fifth Avenue. The high-traffic, tree-lined streets get backed up as strolling tourists stop to gawk at window displays, especially during the holidays. Beautiful people whiz by on their way to one of the Avenue's tony stores. Cars are honking, cabbies are yelling, the traffic officers are yelling back, and your head is spinning. Keep up your energy with a bite to eat at the Billy Goat Tavern, a fine meal at high-end Spiaggia or a snack from the popular Garrett Popcorn Shop.
Sears Tower and Skydeck
Chicago's tallest building boasts the city's longest view--80 miles in any direction on a clear day. The Sears Tower stands 1,454 feet tall, 110 floors high. On a clear day, viewers can see four states. Don't get dizzy--the average sway is six inches from the center. A new Guest Relations Team adds a nice touch and often goes out of its way to be helpful and informative.
Billy Goat Tavern
This bar/lunch counter was immortalized on SNL for its "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger." So Chicago, it's surreal. The original wood-paneled '60s decor remains, and walls are covered with photographs, reprinted columns and a "Wall of Fame" of Chicago journalists. Burgers, dogs, steaks--but you're sure to get berated if you don't order the double cheez. Its two thin, greasy patties come straight off the grill, onto a bun and into your hands. Grab a bag of potato chips--still no fries--and load on the onions, pickles and ketchup for yourself. Voila--a Chicago classic.
You get a hearty slice of Chicago with your home-style toast, eggs, bacon, waffles and pancakes. Most mornings see a line out the door at this bustling, 80-year-old West Loop institution. Still full of old-school city attitude, its hasn't lost any of its popularity among both tourists and eat-and-run business types. The decor, including beige booths, white-speckled black tile floor and plastic plants, is outdated but comforting. Fresh and veteran "Waddya-want?" servers dash around, delivering cholesterol by the plateful. Food comes fast and hot, and good coffee comes frequently
A celebrity favorite, the Italian beef sandwich at this no-nonsense joint is out of this world. The menu's all meat: Italian beef, sausage, burgers, chicken, deli sandwiches. Don't miss the beef sandwich, soaked in jus but still firm, served on a perfectly chewy bun with or without American cheese or sweet or hot peppers. It's the definitive Chicago beef. Fries come in a bag--crisp, skinny and delicious. Too bad the skins aren't left on. Skip the stamped-out-of-a-mold burger; it's criminally thin and overwhelmed by the lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and poppy seed bun.
Greek Islands Restaurant
Save your cravings for this bustling restaurant, a step above other Greektown eateries. Cheese is flaming everywhere you look. A recommended starter, aside from the traditional saganaki, is the taramasalata--thick, creamy spread of fish roe, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and seasonings, served with French bread. Fried calamari is lightly floured, served with a side of tangy cocktail sauce. Traditional Greek entrees abound, like the chicken riganati--a flavorful baked chicken in lemon, olive oil and herbs, served in pieces. Choose from many lamb options, like the braised lamb with egg-lemon sauce and artichokes, which is falling-off-the-bone tender and tasty.
Phil Stefani's 437 Rush
Classy, '40s-style American joint where conservative high rollers get carnivorous. This place oozes old-school, country-club ambience, with white-coated servers and bathroom attendants, black-and-white tile floors and rich mahogany walls with framed photos of past Chicago luminaries. A swanky jazz soundtrack mingles with the soft buzz of conversation from the 30-something, white-collar crowd. Service is excellent. Our savvy server volunteered to portion shared dishes onto three plates herself--then playfully garnished each with a lobster floret.
Vosges Haut Chocolat
The color purple reigns supreme at this hip, haute chocolatier. Odd pairings make the best marriage. Here you'll find peculiar bedfellows such as milk chocolate and violet, Irish whiskey and white pepper and dark chocolate laced with ginger, wasabi and black sesame seeds. Exotic truffles are the treat of choice, and they wind up looking more like works of art than edibles. Candy bars--far from your everyday suspects--include the Budapest Bar, a heady blend of dark chocolate and sweet Hungarian paprika, while the Naga Bar pairs Indian curry with coconut flakes and milk chocolate. Couture cocoas can also be found and include elixirs like ivory hot chocolate infused with lemongrass, Kaffir lime and lavender.
This authentic ice cream parlor and candy shop's biggest draw is its old-fashioned novelty. Homemade scoops are heaped into clamshell-shaped bowls and topped with wafer cookies. Root beer floats overflow tall glasses. The signature turtle sundae tops vanilla ice cream with nuts and hot caramel, accompanied by a pitcher of bittersweet hot fudge that's so thick it clumps (sold for $3.95 per jar). Jumbo creations include the Eiffel Tower, with "four scoops of fresh flavors and paradise"; Margie's melody, combining ice cream and marshmallow; and the "world's largest sundae," which dares you to finish a half-gallon.
For irresistible retro kitsch, there's no surpassing this far northwest side "dawg" house. Don't miss the all-beef Superdawg, lounging inside a blue-and-red box and topped with fluorescent relish, yellow mustard, mild onions, a dill spear and the sublime "pickalilly" (pickled tomato). The toppings only accessorize the frankfurter's dimensions (big), texture (firm but not rubbery) and taste (savory and nearly sweet), which are pretty close to perfect. All sandwiches arrive nestled in a bed of Superfries, crinkle-cut and perfectly salted (though a bit of ketchup helps them along).